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(Gain in crisis)

Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!" Loud sounds of drums from outside woke Zen up in the early hours of the morning.

As soon as he opened his door, he was infected by the atmosphere.

Amidst the bustle of the drumming, a hundred imperial soldiers were marching out of the fort in groups.

Martin located Zen, assembled the team, and they took up the task of hunting blade locusts beyond the confines of the fort.

Hundreds of miles in front of Dragon Fort was the principal battlefield against blade locusts.

Dead blade locusts were piled up in heaps on both sides of the path.

Zen saw some people crowding around the heaps as if they were searching for something. Occasionally one of them would prod at a corpse.

He noticed that all those scavenging the bodies were ordinary citizens. None of them were body refiners.

'So why are they out there?' he wondered. Common people were so weak that a single blade locust could easily kill them all. The battlefield was too dangerous for them.

After watching the people rifling through the remains, Zen asked, "Why are these civilians risking their lives outside the fort? Aren't they afraid to die?"

Martin laughed at his question, "Afraid to die? Of course, they are afraid to die. Every year many civilians get themselves killed here. Just a few days ago, some damned blade locusts got lucky! They rushed in, killing a dozen civilians."

"Then why do they come out of the fort?" asked Zen, puzzled.

Martin smiled, "It has to do with your sect."

Zen was still confused, so, Roger explained, "Each blade locust has a crystal core in its chest. In our sect, they only need the crystal cores you have collected to count the number of blade locusts you have killed. Usually, we take the crystal cores after we kill them. But, we always miss some amidst the many carcasses. These people are here to take a chance on luck. Crystal cores are sold at a premium in the fort."

That explanation cleared it up for Zen. Twenty crystal cores were worth one point. One point was worth two cubic crystals.

Refiners would love to buy some crystal cores with gold or silver that they had no use for. At the same time, through trade, ordinary individuals could make a fortune, living a prosperous, comfortable life. It was a small wonder why so many men were willing to risk their lives looking for crystal cores outside of the fort.

Ahead, the lush green rain forest was quiet.

In the face of the insect army, other beasts migrated yearly because they were as defenseless as humans when it came to the insect horde. The creatures either went into hiding deep underground or fled the forest entirely.

All was still. The only sound was the leaves rustling in the wind.

Moving silently, Zen and the others made their way into the forest.

Since a blade locust's entire body was grass-green hues, they blended in with the environment perfectly, making them good at camouflaging themselves in the forest. When prey was close enough, they would leap out and make the kill.

The instant Zen brushed by a shrub, there were two blades shooting out at his neck so fast that the blades whistled as they neared him.

Smirking, Zen seized a blade with his bare hand as it came close. Energy erupted through his body, covering every inch of him with a purple aura.

With a clang, the blade snapped between his fingers. At the same time, he shattered the head of the blade locust with his other fist.

Everyone was on guard after the appearance of this blade locust. Zen killed it quickly, but that didn't relieve the tension. Instead, the saying, 'when you have one blade locust in sight, two thousand more are close, ' went through their minds.

The rustling grew louder and louder.

It seemed suddenly that the entire forest was alive with thousands of blade locusts appearing out of thin air and closing in on all sides.


Killing them was the only thought running through Zen's head at that moment.

To him, the blade locusts were nothing more than points and a ticket to get into Hell Mountain.

Since Zen began the marrow refining level, he had better control of his life energy. He couldn't use it to attack like a weapon or transform it into life vitality like people at the nature level yet though. Still, at this level, he was able to control his life energy perfectly.

Purple light scattered through the air like thin lines extending from Zen's body and the next moment his fist landed forcibly on a blade locust's head.


Two blade locusts sprang out on either side of him, their sharp blades rising, snapping at the air as they closed in on him.

Zen didn't flinch or dodge. His fists severed the air. The blow summoned a horrifying force, the Purple Light Fist!

"Thump! Clunk!"

With dull thuds, the abdomens of both blade locusts were crushed into pieces under his fists. Their crystal cores dropped to the dirt.

Before he could pick the crystal cores up, he heard the whistling in the air behind him. He ducked in reflex avoiding the attack from a blade locust and then swung his fist at its gut as he turned toward it.

'Purple Fist Strength!'

The abdomen was the hardest part of their body. Zen had learned that the hard way.

Purple Fist Strength could channel a force through the insect's thick shell to the deeper, softer part of its body, where the effect would do more damage.

"Crack! Crush! Boof!"

With seven dull thuds, the flood of force ripped its abdomen apart. The blade locust staggered before collapsing dead on the ground.

One by one blade locusts rushed to Zen. He showed no fear, his parries steady and sure.

Every punch took at least one blade locust, and as they kept dropping dead in front of him, it wasn't long before a pile of bodies rose like a small hill.

While Zen battled, he noticed everyone else was fighting as desperately as he was.

Roger walked among them casually, his sword in hand. Whenever a blade locust came near him, he would swing his sword and shoot a dark red light to pierce the blade locust in the blink of an eye. As befits a refiner at the nature level, he condensed his life vitality into a light, which sliced through the thick exoskeleton like paper.

At the same time, Tank and Sun attacked vigorously. It was not their first time hunting blade locusts. Both of them were experienced fighters and aware of blade locusts' weak spots, which came in handy during the fight.

Men from Green Haze Group drew together in a battle array against the raid of the blade locusts.




Although these noble clansmen were not as stalwart as the four men from the Cloud Sect, their attack was reasonably effective under Martin's command.


Zen snapped another blade from a blade locust and then poked its vulnerable head with his other hand, making it explode under the force.

After he killed this one, there were no more living blade locusts around him.

Only a few blade locusts were left, and they surrounded Roger, Martin and the others, and soon those locusts were killed as well.

He looked around him. Dead bodies piled up. He estimated that there were about sixty blade locust carcasses. He would get sixty crystal cores, which equaled only three points.

Zen smiled wryly as he started collecting the crystal cores from the dead bodies. It was a long, hard fight, yet his hard work only netted three points.

He did some quick mental arithmetic in his mind. To earn one hundred points, he would have to kill twenty thousand blade locusts.

Given his ability, if everything went right, it would take him two weeks to finish the task.

Came to think of it, that wasn't a very steep price! In less than a month he could see his sister. Besides, he could improve himself during each battle.

Thinking about the positives reinvigorated him, and he hastily dug out the remaining crystal cores.

After the first wave of blade locusts, they continued along the edge of the forest.

While they walked, Zen took the initiative, killing many blade locusts, and his number of crystal cores grew one by one.

"Alert! Another wave approaches!" Several battles later, Zen was familiar with his new enemies' moves. Now, he easily spotted them through the sound of the wind ahead.

Not far off branches stirred and then blade locusts came into view.

But this time, something was different. Dozens of purple blade locusts were with this lot.

"Blade locust officers!"

Zen's eyes flickered at sight.

These locusts were more valuable than the normal blade locusts. Each officer was worth one point, the equivalent of twenty normal blade locusts.

Surely officers were harder to kill than normal blade locusts.

"All right, men, watch out! The officers are poisonous. Be careful of the needles!" warned Martin. The truth was, only Zen needed the warning since everyone else already knew.

A blade locust officer was a level four beast with a body comparable to a refiner who was a half-step in the nature level. Sharp venomous spikes spread across its purple body, making it a savage foe.

Martin's warning didn't make Zen flinch though. Instead, he charged forward fearlessly.

Blade locust officers made clicking with their mandibles as if they were talking to each other when Zen rushed at them.

The significant difference between the officers and ordinary locusts was that the officers were intelligent, and could communicate!

A half dozen officers had reached a decision after their short discussion and fanned out in Zen's direction, and the next second he was surrounded.

"That was a little reckless, Zen! You've gotten yourself enclosed!" called Martin from behind.

"Let's give him a hand," said Tank as he and Sun moved in closer. They fought side by side in the battle, and before long they warmed up to each other, becoming fast friends. So as soon as they saw Zen in danger, they hurried to lend him a hand.

Roger was the only one who didn't move. He knew full well Zen was too cautious to make such a mistake. Zen would have thought it through before acting. So, Roger was secure in his belief that Zen could handle the situation.

Standing there, Roger wondered what Zen's plan was. What tactic would he employ to deal with the six blade locust officers simultaneously? Roger's curiosity was piqued.



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